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Independent review of former Arapahoe County case worker finds inadequacy in assessments

CDHS recommends additional layer of review of Robin Niceta’s work
robin niceta court
Posted at 5:40 PM, Sep 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-26 19:40:34-04

DENVER – An independent review of former Arapahoe County case worker Robin Niceta, who was charged in May with felony attempt to influence a public servant and misdemeanor false reporting of child abuse, found that the quality of the work assigned to her was inadequate but recommended “an additional layer of review” to dig more deeply into her time at the county Department of Human Services.

In a letter to Arapahoe County Human Services director Cheryl Ternes obtained by Denver7 on Monday, officials with the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) state the department found, “an inadequacy of effort and thoroughness in assessments to which the Social Caseworker and the supervisor were assigned.”

They continue, “CDHS also had concerns about the Social Caseworker’s failure to perform work in accordance with the Colorado Code of Regulations, including minimal or no documented efforts to contact necessary family members or collaterals, necessary but unverified cross-reporting to law enforcement, disposition (“finding”) reasoning concerns, and needed improvements to record of contact/documentation/closure summaries.”

The independent review did not identify “additional unresolved child safety concerns” as a result of the evaluation, CDHS officials wrote.

The review comes months after Niceta falsely accused Aurora City Council member Danielle Jurinsky of unlawful sexual contact with her own child a day after Jurinsky called now-former Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson “trash” on a conservative radio talk show in January.

Jurisnky told Denver7 Investigates she believed the false report was made in retaliation for the remark and called on Arapahoe County to review every case Niceta oversaw at the county DHS.

Niceta and the county DHS now face a class action lawsuit and federal complaint, which focuses on the alleged separation or attempted separation of children from their parents or caregivers by ACDHS.

Overall, the CDHS found Niceta had a dozen practice concerns which were shared with the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services in early August, including:

  • Minimal interview/contact notes. 
  • Minimal or no recorded efforts to contact a non-custodial parent(s). 
  • Minimal or no recorded efforts to contact the alleged Person Responsible for Abuse or Neglect, even when a “founded” disposition is entered. 
  • Cross-reporting to law enforcement - either lack of documentation occurred or contact did not occur. 
  • Verifying information with collateral contacts - lack of documentation occurred or the contact did not occur. 
  • Overall findings selected as Program Area 4: Youth in Conflict - No Finding when assessment is Program Area 5: Child Protection. 
  • Overall finding disposition in some instances lacks clear reasoning and is not necessarily supported by documentation. 
  • Listed family as “unable to locate” after failed home visit attempts without documenting attempts to contact alleged victim(s) at school or verify if child/youth enrolled in school to make attempted contact.
  • No detailed interview contact notes from forensic interviews in many assessments. 
  • Minimal documented attempts to contact collaterals other reported professionals involved, and minimal or no verification of statements made by parents. 
  • Questions about supervisor approval regarding all of the above outlined concerns. 
  • A number of individuals contacted indicated not having any sense of the conclusion of the assessment. No information regarding findings, closing out assessment, etc. 
  • In some contact with agencies, a lack of documentation of specific individuals who were spoken to. This made it difficult, if not impossible, to confirm in

It's unclear when the review was completed, but the CDHS writes in closing remarks that because of the urgency of identifying potential issues, the independent review “was limited in scope” and recommends “an additional layer of review or audit to more broadly and deeply assess case practice and supervision.”

Arapahoe County officials released a statement following the release of the results of the independent review, which you can read in full below.

Arapahoe County is thankful that the state’s limited review of Robin Niceta’s cases concluded that no children are currently in an unsafe situation, which is consistent with the mission of Arapahoe County Department of Human Services. The County accepts the findings of the review, and we will fully cooperate with the state’s recommendations. In light of these findings, and consistent with statewide recommendations to all counties, we will add measures that will help mitigate the likelihood of bad actors infiltrating our systems in the future. We also will add new quality assurance professionals to help guide these practice improvements.

The County requested this outside review to determine whether there was any additional misconduct committed by the former employee. The audit conducted by the State Department of Human Services determined that, on some cases handled by the former employee, there was a failure to completely investigate and document potential cases of child abuse, although it did not result in any child being left in an unsafe situation. It also concluded that the former employee’s supervision did not catch these instances and recommended further review of supervisory practices. Fortunately, no additional instances of false reporting against a third party by this former employee have been found, nor has anything been found that would support the allegations of widespread overzealous and false pursuance of child abuse allegations contained in the recently filed class action lawsuit